Old Money and Raising Children

A few weeks ago, David, one of our regular readers and contributors in the comments section, inquired about how Old Money families raise their children. I responded, and David suggested that the response might make a good blog post.  Rereading what I’d written, I think he has a point.

So, below is the response in full. Thank you, David, for the excellent suggestion. I hope it’s beneficial.

Hi David, thank you for your kind words about the book and for recommending it to your friends. Even though I briefly cover the subject of raising children in “The Old Money Guide To Marriage”, I am reluctant to write about the subject in depth. The reason is that I don’t have any children, and I’d prefer not to be an ‘armchair quarterback’ on the subject.

That said, Old Money families do have some common practices that I think warrant mentioning.

First, there’s love. When you marry and have children that you’ve (probably) planned for and prepared for (as much as is possible), you welcome them into your life and love them. When you develop that bond, it’s possible to guide, educate, and inspire them to live fully, do well, and be good people. If you don’t love them, it’s tough sledding all around.

Second, there’s discipline and structure. Children need boundaries and definition, even if they don’t always welcome them. This has to start early and be maintained. It’s work, but it’s an investment that pays off. I’m not talking about squashing a child’s natural joy and curiosity, but it is necessary for them to learn manners and understand that they’re part of a family unit and a larger social structure.

Third, there’s education. This starts at home with reading to a child, limiting the TV and internet time, and exposing them to the vast wealth of knowledge that resides in libraries and museums. A lot of emphasis is put on private schools, but the priorities set at home may be an even larger influence on a child’s educational development than getting into Choate.

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Those are the fundamentals. The reasons New Money drops the ball are legion. As I’ve said before, New Money parents may be so focused on giving their children what they never had that they forget to give their children what they did have: namely, a challenge, motivation, and an opportunity to success and fail. It’s also important that the parents get a firm grip and new perspective on what role money plays in the life of the family. You have to know what money can and can’t do for you. And you have to have a sense of who you are outside your financial net worth. Tricky business when you’ve gone from rags to riches, or, more likely, working class to rich in a matter of just a few years.

To preserve wealth, my opinion is that you’ve got to first drill into your children’s heads the Core Values I detail in The Old Money Book. Not a delicate way to put it, but perhaps the imagery will help with the execution. (Wink, nod.) Second, you’ve got to structure you finances with wills, trusts, insurance, etc. to ensure the smooth transfer of wealth from one generation to the next (minimizing taxes and family feuds is key). Third, you’ve got to clearly articulate, while you are alive and healthy, what you expect your heirs to do with the money once you’re gone. That is, they are to preserve it and make it grow in order to provide security, health, education, and opportunity for themselves and generations to come. This is the long view, and they need to adopt it early on. Finally, it helps to have a CPA, family attorney, and perhaps an investment advisor who can ‘circle the wagons’ when the time comes and keep things on an even keel.

I hope this provides an overview of Old Money’s attitudes and protocols for the preservation of family wealth. It’s been suggested that I provide a consulting service for New Money, but I’m sure I’d get too angry when I gave advice and people didn’t listen.

So I’ll just stick to writing.

  • BGT

19 thoughts on “Old Money and Raising Children

  1. These are great points, and you cover great topics in your book, as well. I think raising any child in an “old money
    way is beneficial, even if the family is not old money. It is a good mindset to have and wonderful values for a child. Conspicuous consumption is unattractive for everyone. Great post!

  2. I love checking in to see what you are writing about and this truly is where I am at as a mother. Being a military family, our children started school in a state that had terrible (bottom five in the nation) schools. I homeschool now because of it and a solid foundation in the classics is the backbone of our children’s education. Heidi, Uncle Toms Cabin, Black Beauty…the classics….teach our children empathy, something sorely lacking today. Also…I keep leaning on “experiences” to fill in gaps…museums, theater, etc. My husband and I are not old money but we know you all when we see and meet you! Keep writing!

  3. Some very good points your readers made, Byron. These are excellent lessons to teach any child, old money or not. Agree with Stephanie…keep writing.

  4. As usual, you’re on target here Byron. I would point out, though, that although there is tremendous emphasis on education, not all old money families send their children to private school. Many old money families live in towns with excellent public schools (usually paid for with sky high property taxes) that their children attend. Also, as noted elsewhere in this blog, money is spent on experiences, not things. For the children this may mean things like piano lessons, horseback riding lessons or trips to Europe, but not cars, clothes or jewelry.

    Reading and cultivating a life of the mind and an appreciation of the arts are strongly encouraged. One thing that I have noticed consistently in old money families is that dinner table conversation, which is an important part of raising children, tends to be about ideas and not about personal gossip or the latest TV shows. And nobody is impressed with consumerism and materialism.

    Thanks for another good blog post!

    1. Hi Amy,your advice is wanted in the Member of the Tribe 18 comment section! Hope you can make it over there.

  5. I think my parents did a fabulous job of ‘hiding’ information. We were the 4th generation to live in a cottage my great-grandfather built when they moved to Missouri from Virginia (I would eventually return the family to Virginia, and my grandson is 15th generation.) We drove ‘regular’ cars and drove them forever. I didn’t really know we ‘had anything’ until I was older and out of the house. About 20 years my mother and father decided to build their ‘dream’ home. Funny. They built in the field a few yards away from the family cottage where I used to ride my horses, and it was only a couple hundred square feet bigger than what I grew up in and very plain. I think we did a great job with our children in that respect, as well. My husband was a politico in Washington DC and so we had a fairly formal lifestyle. They knew they had to mind their ‘p’s’ and q’s’. And we never, ever lavished them with monetary things. But they have a lifestyle of absolutely wonderful experiences.

  6. I am not what you would consider Old Money, but I read your book a year ago and it has highly influenced my thinking and decision making these days. I find myself thinking and pondering on different aspects of your book daily. I have a question, and I don’t expect you to have an answer for someone you don’t even know, but if this was a letter from your niece how would you respond. Excuse my grammar as I don’t have a college education and had an ok education.

    Dear Uncle Byron,

    Henry is in now 9 years old, and going in 4th grade, and Jacob is 4 years old and ready to attend a 4K program. I have been blessed to be able to be at home to raise my boys thus far.
    Henry attends our local public school, and has since kindergarten. It’s a great school and he loves it, but I have been adviced by my mentor that public school may be too diverse, and kids benefit from a smaller environment.
    We have run into a few challenges at the school, but I just assume that is at every school. I attended public school growing up and I just don’t know any different. I didn’t like school, but I just assumed that’s life.

    I read a fantastic book called the “Old Money Book” recently, and it really got me rethinking the way my kids are being educated. I wanted to ask your opinion. If I am willing to go back to work and pay the tuition I am thinking of sending the kids to a great Catholic school that is very reputable in our area. I am struggling with this decision because I enjoy being home, and am not sure if I’m willing to give that up to pay tuition when our tax money is paying for my kids to go to the local public school. What would the “Old Money Woman ” do in this situation? I value your opinion.
    Sincerely, K

    1. Hi K, thank you very much for the kind words about the book. I’m glad it has been helpful to you. I’m honored that you’d seek my advice about such an important decision, and I don’t take the responsibility of advising you lightly. Education may be the most important aspect I discuss in The Old Money Book. You’re to be complimented for taking such a keen interest in your children’s education.

      I’m going to offer my opinion, and ask some questions that only you can answer. I’m also going to encourage our readers to share their experiences. Hopefully, you’ll get enough information and perspectives to make a good decision for Henry and Jacob.

      First, regarding the public school Henry is now attending: you mention that your mentor said the school might be ‘too diverse’. If that refers to the school being racially diverse, I don’t think that’s a negative: the real world is full of people who have different backgrounds, cultures, skin hues, and traditions. It will probably be a good thing if Henry experiences this early. He’ll have a chance to pick his friends based on shared values and common interests and perhaps consider race and religion less than past generations.

      The other point you say your mentor mentions is class size. This is, in my opinion, very important. The smaller the class size, in most cases, the better the educational experience.

      I’m not going to be critical of public schools. However, I mention Catholic schools in The Old Money Book for a few reasons, and I’ll share them with you now: first, most of the time, parents must apply and pay out of pocket to send their children to a Catholic school. To me, this means that the parents are invested in the process, the children will probably pick up on that and be more invested. Catholic schools can be more strict (discipline) and more rigorous (curriculum) than pubic schools. If the student or their parents don’t like it, they can leave, or if there’s a problem, the student can be asked to leave. Finally, my personal experience was this: I attended a (incredibly affluent) public school. I was intelligent and well-read, but I was not challenged. My wife, on the other hand, attending a Catholic school in New England where she was required to learn French, Latin, calculus, Shakespeare, and a host of other subjects. The quality of her experience was completely different than mine.

      I would investigate the Catholic school you are considering. Talk to parents who have children attending the school. Talk to students who attended the school. Get 50 different opinions and see what common threads are there. Then think it over. Talk it over with your family, including Henry. Tell him what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling. Take a tour of the school. See what it feels like.

      Finally, with regards to what an Old Money Gal would do…The Old Money Women I know prioritize education for their children, above all else. If it means going back to work to pay for it, I would say that there would be no other endeavor so noble and so respected by me, and the people who participate on this blog. Of course, no one can know all the factors you have to consider in making this decision. And whatever you decide, the fact that you’re giving it thought and asking for advice is, as I said, to be commended. I wish you the best, and if you need to discuss the situation in more detail, please feel free to email me at byrontully@gmail.com in complete confidence. I’ll be happy to offer any insights or advice that I can.

      Thank you again. Your children are very lucky indeed. – BGT

    2. Hi K, there is no difference between public, catholic, private, ivy ……. What matters is the common core! Google: 3 Examples That Show How Common Core Is Destroying Math Education In America, and check PISA 2015.

      Now, by the age of 11-15 your boys should be thoroughly familiar with works from: Alexander Delmar (Del Mar – sometimes), Plutarch – On Sparta, difference between Aristotle and Plato, Justinian’s Corpus Juris Civilis, John Coleman, Will Durant (all 11), they have to understand ancient Babylonian history, Byzantine history, ancient and middle ages history generally, who really was Marco Polo, Tarpley Webster, who were/are those from La serenisima (I do not mean opera form Vivaldi), Astle David, Shakespeare’s Othello, The Moor of Venice, financial vipers ….., John Gatto ….. and so on. And for you there is a: The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids by Joy Pullmann. Until your boys reach 11, they should master The dangerous book for boys (all of them)!!! And if you need books,…… how about typing in e r e n o w . c o m. Tons and tons of great books for hungry boys and girls. Or type in for example ……. alexander delmar archive and let’s see what pops up.

      Warning!!! By going through, no one will retwett your effort, no one will repost your hours reading, no one will hit the like button 456 times ….., there will be no instant gratification. Only “instant” should be a coffee, from time to time.
      Please bare in mind I am not pedaling Byron’s interest, but his books could land under the Christmas tree as a present for your boys.
      Education and schooling are two completely different things.

      Good luck!

      1. Thank you OMGM. We purchased Dangerous Book for Boys already and my 9 year old is in boy heaven. Forever grateful for the amount of content you took your time to share. I will come back to this again and again..

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